Terry Dresbach

Outlander Costume Designer

Reply To: OK, let's do this: The Beating and Issues of Consent

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[quote quote=7112]Do you hope it’s true to the novel? Do you hope it was modified to avoid some of the rampant finger-pointing that is sure to follow?
I wrote a while back about my general feelings about the beating. Generally I see it as something that could have very well been accepted in its time and that is where I choose to keep it, but a couple of things do bother me. Jamie is presented time and again as the most cunning man in any room, and he couldn’t figure a way around this?
Second, even if Claire originally consents, I really wish Jamie had stopped when asked.
Thoughts (?[/quote]

Other than the recurring theme of Claire being an unreliable narrator, she states in CH: 22

“Without one world of direct explanation or apology, he had given me the message he intended. I gave you justice, it said, as I was taught it. And I gave you mercy, too, so far as I could. While I could not spare you pain and humiliation, I make you a gift of my own pains and humiliations, that yours might be easier to bear (pg 259).”

and a bit before this during her dialogue with Jamie he makes the statement “I seldom lose my temper, Sassenach, and generally regret it when I do (pg 257).” Claire seemed to take this as an apology for Jamie losing his temper when he chose to belt her. I think given his reactions later in the series, that this is quite true.

Many have talked about Jamie stopping when he was asked, and I’m curious if we are still referring to the belting scene? I’ve re-read that scene several times, and I’m not seeing a point in the dialogue where she consents to the belting and then recants.

This entire scene didn’t bother me, and and can’t bring myself to view Jamie as out of line. I’ve gotta say, not being a violent person myself, but there have been several times during these books that if Claire were my wife, I’d reconsider my stance on corporal punishment. This being the worst. This is also not intended to be a, -Jamie can do no wrong- argument, but Jamie explaining his position on being beaten as a child/teenager reinforces the intention behind why he chose that method to make the lesson stick. It’s what he knows, it’s the only option he had at hand based on the experiences he’d had up until this point. In times of overt stress we revert back to training, typically the training received in childhood.

Claire, in her retelling, says that, “It left me smothered in the greasy quilts with a knee in my back, being beaten within an inch of my life (pg 252).” Anyone that has been strapped as punishment, knows that is exactly how it feels in the moment. Being whipped with leather is a serious event, and burns like hell, but did he really beat her within an inch of her life? I’ll wager no, he didn’t. I’ll wager that, being unfamiliar with being whipped for any reason, Claire narrated the event as worse than it actually was. That is not to say it wasn’t bad and that she couldn’t sit for a while, because I believe that to be true, but this is another case to show Claire is an unreliable narrator and allows feelings to override facts that sometimes contradict the telling of events in the story.

I believe that Jamie could have found another way around the belting, but given the fact that he admits to being enraged by the events they had escaped and scared out of his mind for nearly losing her, I think expecting him to respond in a logical way is unrealistic. Just as we can’t expect Claire to respond in a logical way having just escaped being nearly raped by deserters, and then deciding to run back to the Future.

I look forward to the Tv portrayal of this scene, because it will create dialogue about what is and is not acceptable behavior between a husband and wife. Do I condone belting (in this context) or any form of domestic violence, no. I am however trying to view these scenes without the hinderance of ethnocentrism that values what is culturally acceptable for my culture over one from hundreds of years ago. I do not know what the legal status for beating your wife was in the mid 1700’s in Scotland, but I do know that it was common place, and is still to this day, in many parts of the world-regardless of the legality of it. Is if farfetched to believe that a husband beating his wife for endangering her life and the lives of others is unrealistic for the time? I’d argue no, it’s altogether likely.